Code Vein plays mostly like your standard Souls-like game—If you’ve ever played one before you know how everything works. As you discover new areas you’ll run into Code Vein versions of Bonfires called “Mistles” where you can rest to recover, save, head back to the base, or teleport to other unlocked Mistles. There’s XP currency called “Haze” that works like Souls and used for everything from unlocking abilities and leveling up to purchasing equipment. When you die, you lose your Haze but can get it back at the spot of death, so long as you don’t die again.
The core combat has a familiar system with heavy and light attacks, dodging and parrying, and so forth. When you look at the fundamentals, it is very much your standard Souls-like game, but there are a few things that really give Code Vein its own unique flavor, starting with the AI partner companions.
In Code Vein you can choose to have an AI-controlled companion character with you at all times. However, you do have the option to solo most of it, so if you’re in it for the challenge like the hard-M that you are, you can choose to go solo. Companions consist of other Revenants such as Louis who provides assistance in close-ranged combat using a One-Handed Sword. He’s saved my ass on more than a few occasions with his ability to revive and stun enemies. Mia Karnstein on the other hand uses a Bayonet Rifle that allows her to attack in both close and long-ranged battles. If you want a companion that focuses more on support, Io is perfect as she won’t do much damage and is pretty frail but makes up for it with plenty of healing and resistances to elements and debuffs.
The companions help in numerous ways and they come in handy from start to end—from early trash mobs to tough boss fights—just by simply being there. Thanks to the AI partners you get some extra breathing room while fighting bosses. When a boss starts attacking your companion it allows you to dish some heavy damage, and when their focus is on you, the companions can dish out damage of their own. They all come with different fighting styles, but in the end it’s just nicer to have an extra body on your side.
The game also has a way of placing monsters behind you, but not in a convenient way where you could just turn around and knock them out with a quick hit. No, they spawn them a little farther behind where you won’t see or hear them right away. There are a few moments that I recall entering an area and looking behind just in case any Lost were hiding behind a door, then moving on after confirming only to hear my companion grunting and fighting one that apparently dropped from the ceiling behind us. It’s nice to have companions get your back like that.
The next thing that gives Code Vein a bit of an RPG-like touch are the job class-like Blood Codes. They come in four different types that focus on melee, ranged, agility, and magic. Blood Codes can make things quite interesting, especially if you’re into experimenting with builds. The three starter Blood Codes are Fighter, Caster, and Ranger. Fighter has active and passive Gifts (skills) that focus on buffs used to improve maximum HP, attack power, defense, and more. Caster has Gifts that allow you to attack from a distance using powerful projectile abilities. Those two are more straightforward, but starting with the Ranger things can get tricky with agility-types, as they come with more variety in Gifts with everything from max stamina increase, projectiles, dash attack, and venom effects to list a few.
Blood Codes all have their own set of Gifts, stats, and weapon proficiency. There are about 30 of them in total, so I can imagine some people going through playthroughs using certain Blood Codes then using different sets in their next run. For example, I like to sneak up on enemies and fight close range, so the Assassin Blood Code has been pretty awesome as it works best for melee combat and surprise attacks. For my next playthrough, I’m looking to try out more of the ranged options.
You get plenty of options to play your style with Blood Codes but you can take it a step further by mastering and inheriting Gifts. This is done by using a Gift enough and maxing out its proficiency, which allows you to inherit it and use on other Blood Codes. That means you can mix and match a variety of Gifts, so long as you meet the stat requirements. This kind of system isn’t anything new, but it always reminds me of games like Final Fantasy Tactics or Bravely Default, as they offer a variety of jobs with skills that can be mastered to use on other jobs. I always find it exciting to unlock new Blood Codes to get some ideas on what Gifts I could use with it, or what Gifts look useful from it. For example there are some Blood Codes that are more effective with weapons I don’t use much, but they might have Gifts that look super useful, so I can simply use it just enough to master the Gift and then use it on other Blood Codes.
In the end, you can go with any Blood Code and companion you like, but there are some that work better with others. For example, if you’re using a lot of ranged attacks you could partner with my boy Yakumo Shinonome, who is more tanky with the ability to shield you from attacks and knock back enemies, so that you can simply sit back and shoot away.
Some players might choose partners based on their weapon types or their Blood Codes and whatever they synergize best with. I stuck with my guns and mostly went based on cup size so it was a lot of Io and Eva. No bloody regrets.
Code Vein is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Check out my earlier impression to read more about the God Eater and Freedom Wars vibes I got from the game.